Signs of the times are everywhere.

At Shiretown Meats in Edgartown on Wednesday, Dave Vaughn was busy hanging a hand-drawn sign for the upcoming weekend. All-beef patties, a staple for any backyard cookout, are on sale - $1.50 per patty while supplies last.

At the Madison Inn in Oak Bluffs, Caleb Caldwell was busy readying his new hotel for the flood of weekend visitors filling his reservation book.

And at hardware stores around the Island, beach chairs and sun block were the order of the week, flying off the shelves and in the face of the drizzle and fog that blanketed the beaches.

Across the Vineyard, the signs of summer's crowning weekend are everywhere, from American flags fluttering in the breeze off Panhandle Road in West Tisbury to red, white and blue buntings adorning white picket fences along streets from Music to Main.

Get ready for the refrains of John Philip Sousa, the multiple helpings of apple pie and plenty of fireworks. The nation celebrates the two-hundred and thirtieth anniversary of its independence on Tuesday.

Not surprisingly, the Vineyard is bracing for a busy Fourth of July holiday. The Steamship Authority has sold out tickets for cars traveling to the Island today through Sunday, with spaces opening up on Monday and Tuesday. That is good news for the boat line, which, thanks to one of the wettest months in recent years, saw passenger traffic dip 7.8 per cent through June 21.

"Any time we have big rain like we have had in the last few weeks, we see dips," SSA treasurer Bob Davis said yesterday. "But it's supposed to be beautiful this weekend, so hopefully we'll see both more sun and more passengers."

As he spoke, there were about 60 to 70 cars in stand-by in Woods Hole hoping to get over to the Island. They better do it quick: the no stand-by policy goes into effect today through July 10.

"There has been a slight decrease in traffic, but the phones are busy, people are calling," added Gina Barbosa, the boat line manager of reservations and community relations. "It's all about the weather. If it is nice, they will come."

As for the weather, as of press time, both the National Weather Service and the Weather Channel were predicting a pleasant weekend with - dare we say it - ample sunshine on Saturday. Sunday may also be a good day for a trip to the beach, but moving into the week, the forecast called for a slight chance of showers on Monday and Tuesday.

Martha's Vineyard Airport manager Sean Flynn said the weather likely also would decide how busy the skies are over the Island this weekend. As of Thursday, he anticipated a slight drop in activity.

"It's really one of those things that we gauge retrospectively, when we can determine what the fuel sales were," Mr. Flynn said. "Most of the private customers that land here also tend to decide last minute whether they want to come to the Vineyard or not."

Should the weather turn wet again next week, revelers are hoping for a break at least on Tuesday for the annual Fourth of July parade and fireworks in Edgartown. This year's parade, as in the past, starts at 5 p.m. from the Edgartown School. Participants are encouraged to leave plenty of time for getting to and leaving from the celebration.

"Five o'clock sharp, on the nose," said Fred B. (Ted) Morgan Jr., who will mark his 35th year as grand marshal. "We've got this thing pretty well organized by now, so if all the volunteers coordinate it the way they should, it should go off on time and without a hitch."

Mr. Morgan said this year's parade - which snakes along Pease's Point Way toward the Harbor View Hotel, back along North Water street and finally up Main street - will follow the same route as in previous years, but with a few small changes in the parade itself. Perhaps most noticeably to children, candy will not be thrown from the floats to the crowd. In an effort to make the celebration safer, sweets will be handed out from volunteers walking alongside the floats.

"We want to eliminate the risk of having a child injured while going after the thrown candy," Mr. Morgan said.

Floats will crawl through the streets with everything from inflatable rats to mechanical sharks to papier mache farm animals. Prizes will be awarded to the floats that are judged the most patriotic and the most original, along with a $1,000 grand prize and a $500 special prize.

The Colonial Navy, the Bay State Band and the Vineyard Haven Band will march in the parade and play concerts in the afternoon and evening before CR Pyro unleashes its arsenal of fireworks over Edgartown harbor after dark.

"It will be the usual small-town, patriotic parade, and I imagine there will be quite a crowd," Mr. Morgan said.

The Edgartown police department urged visitors to follow two rules of thumb:

"Get there early and definitely use the Park and Ride," Sgt. Tony Bettencourt said. "We'll be shutting down Main street at 3 p.m. as well as Water street and the Edgartown Yacht Club parking lot. If people allow for extra time, things will go smoothly."

For early risers looking for more parade mania, you can find it on the other side of the Island. Aquinnah residents will start the day off with a march of their own, parading down Old South Road beginning at 9:30 a.m. The small town display will also feature face painting for children and a treasure hunt on Philbin Beach.

In Edgartown, Mr. Morgan will again watch the parade pass from the reviewing stand in front of the Old Whaling Church, where the floats will be judged. And this year he will be accompanied on his march by two special guests: his grandson, Dylan Morgan, who just returned from his second tour in Afghanistan, and Dylan's girlfriend, who served alongside him in the same unit.

"I was a career military man, and having him march with me and the other soldiers is a thrill," he said. "Having him there, I feel the same way I felt marching with my son, Tim, who was a colonel in the Army. I was a proud father then and I will be a proud grandfather on Tuesday."